Wording in instructions..plea for clarity!

Subject: Wording in instructions..plea for clarity!
From: Jane Bergen <janeb -at- ANSWERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 25 Mar 1997 09:13:13 +0000

It seems to me that the argument about "appears" and "displays" is a
bit more complex than some of us have argued.

> Robin M. Allen wrote:

> I'm in the middle of a raging debate among several tech writers
> about the use of "appears" vs "is displayed," e.g.:
> "Click Add and the Add Patient window is displayed."
> vs
> "Click Add and the Add Patient window appears."
> Even though it uses the passive voice, I personally prefer "is
> displayed." To me, "appears" sounds like it happens through magic.
> Any thoughts?

First of all, the verb "display" is a transitive verb, meaning it
needs to display SOMETHING. (Webster's II, New Riverside Dictionary).
So "appears" is the correct choice in the two.

That said, however, the construction of the sentence in general is
very odd. I'm talking about the user doing something (Click Add) and
then an unassociated ("and the .... appears") event occurs. No
wonder there is the feeling of magic! There should be a clear
association between the user's action and a result, so the best
choice could be:

"Click Add to open the Add Patient window."

That sentence makes it very clear what happens when the user clicks
the Add button or menu option and that the user is causing the

"my opinions are my own..."
Jane Bergen, Technical Writer
janeb -at- answersoft -dot- com
AnswerSoft, Inc. Dallas, TX

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